Tigers edge Dragons in opener, 2-1

Gloversville's Ryan Smith (2) stretches in an attempt to stop the crossing pass by Hudson Falls' Michael Hunt during the Dragons' season opener Wednesday at Gloversville High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

GLOVERSVILLE — When the Hudson Falls Tigers visited Gloversville last October, they left on the short end of a 4-3 overtime loss to the Dragons in the opening round of the Section II Class A boys sectional soccer tournament.

On Wednesday, the Tigers returned to the pitch at Gloversville High School and turned in a solid second-half performance to deal the Dragons a 2-1 season-opening Foothills Council loss.

“It was the first 10 minutes we wanted,” Gloversville coach Jason Hillabrandt said. “We knew coming in that their whole mantra is their aggressiveness and every third of the field they just completely dominated every 50-50 ball and every ball in the air. They had a game plan and they definitely executed it.”

Gloversville got off to a strong start, moving the ball through the midfield only to be met by a solid Hudson Falls backline.

Midway through the opening half, heavy rain began to fall, giving players relief from a humid, 90-degree day, but made the artificial turf slippery.

Gloversville's Raymond Strauser moves into position as the Dragons' Damian Bruce cuts the ball back from Hudson Falls defender Shane Grimes (18) during the Dragons' season opener Wednesday at Gloversville High School. (The Leader-Herald/James A. Ellis)

The Dragons broke through for the first score of the match just over 33 minutes into the match.

Raymond Strauser gained control of the ball deep in the Tigers’ defensive zone and sent a cross to the far side where Damian Bruce, who had a hat trick, including the game-winner in October, finished the play for a 1-0 lead

The Tigers battled back only to have the Dragons defense keep them wide on the pitch and not allowing solid shooting opportunities.

With torrential rain falling and the final seconds of the opening half ticking off the clock, Tigers’ defender James Prakelt stepped into a clearing pass near midfield that sailed over the outstretched arms of Gloversville goalkeeper Jacob Kataneksza and under the bar to tie the match at one at the break.

“Scoring a goal with 13 seconds left in the opening half over our keepers head didn’t really help,” Hillabrandt said. “The worst thing about that was it negated a pretty solid 39-and-a-half minutes of soccer by us.”

Prakelt’s goal proved to be a momentum changer for the Tigers as they began stringing passes together through the Gloversville midfield before coming up with what proved to be the game-winner with 16:44 remaining in the match.

Shane Grimes gained control in the midfield for the Tigers and pushed a pass forward to Ryan Melucci who in turn touched a pass to the far post where Carter Lewis was closing to put the ball in the back of the net for a 2-1 lead.

The Dragons picked up their intensity looking to answer the goal, however, the Tigers’ defense was up to the task, challenging the plays and limiting the Gloversville strikers to long shots that goalkeeper Justin Fenton was able to control and secure the league win.

“It was obviously our first game and one of the few times we didn’t have a non-league game before the season,” Hillabrandt said. “I was pretty pleased with the first 39 minutes. We are a very shallow team with only two subs, so seeing guys hobble off kind of brought us down a little bit but there was absolutely no excuses. They completely outplayed us in the second half, especially in the middle third of the field.”

Both team recorded nine shots on goal in the match, with Hudson Falls holding an 8-2 advantage in corner kicks.

Kataneksza and Fenton recorded three saves apiece in goal.

Hudson Falls (1-0-0 overall, 1-0-0 Foothills) will host Colonie in a non-league match Friday, while Gloversville (0-1-0, 0-1-0) will take to the road for a league match at Johnstown (0-1-0, 0-1-0) at 7 p.m. Friday night at Johnstown High School.

“I know the kids will be up for it and obviously Johnstown will be up for it, too,” Hillabrandt said. “My biggest concern is that we have a good practice tomorrow and see how we respond on Friday.”